The rather limited joys of Pleural Aspiration…

Before going on with this, someone asked me, vis-à-vis what I’ve written here about APH, if nothing went right – as if I make this shit up for entertainment! The answer is no, very little went right, OK?

The big thing – and I’m more than happy to give credit where it’s due – is that APH saved my life. That’s a fact. I’m still dying – that’s a fact, too, there is simply too much wrong with me for it to be fixable, not least because no-one knows exactly what’s gone wrong, which just leaves treating the symptoms.

The theory is that my heart problems are causing albumen to be suffused throughout my body causing, among much else, substantial peripheral oedema. My adrenal glands are shot, needing twice-daily doses of hydrocortisone, and I’m protein, thiamine, and calcium deficient too. As a complicating factor, my colon is malfunctioning and several of my more essential drugs have turned on me and become toxic. The technical term for all this is, I believe, totally screwed!

Now, back to the subject in hand.

One of the less enjoyable events during my stay in hospital was having about 300ml of toxic crap sucked out of my right pleural cavity via a bloody big needle, having been deposited there by my messed-up heart. Or, to give it its full title, a Right-sided Pleural Aspiration

It wasn’t so much that it was excessively painful – I was mostly only peripherally aware – it was that despite my best efforts at protecting myself it retained all the elements needed for a massive fuckup.

The procedure was carried out with the aid of an ultrasound scanner, and all components, scanner, me, operator, bloody big needle (henceforth the BBN), all had to be locked in place relative to each other, to obviate the risk of chipping a rib, or puncturing some vital internal plumbing should the relationships shift.

There was just one tiny snag – there was no way of achieving that so, while I was being poked, prodded and sucked dry, I designed a way, only briefly distracted by an X being carved in my back with a Stanley knife, to mark the position for the BBN. At least, that’s what it felt like.

The problem was that the scanner and its operator, who also wielded the BBN, were perched on the bed, which is on wheels. I was bent over the bedside table – on wheels – can you see the pattern emerging? – and told to hang on and not even twitch unless I wanted to see just how dire the consequences could be. Then the doc doing the procedure climbed aboard and everything shifted!

“Hold it!!!” I hollered, “this isn’t going to work and it puts me at risk.” I might have been rather more blunt than that – it was a fraught moment!

Look, everything is in motion here, so this is what we do. You – to the nurse who was hovering – bring that chair here and wedge it tightly in front of me between the wall and the table, so the latter is fixed. Done.

Now push the bed hard up against me from behind and lock the wheels. Done.

OK, carry on. Which they did with very poor grace considering that if they’d injured me I’d have sued their collective arses.

An alternative to the chair-lock, which I came up with while they were infiltrating the local and going ever deeper with the BBN, was a bunch of webbing straps which could be used to lock the bed, table and scanner into a mostly immoveable unit, with the advantage that it could be used anywhere. Tried to explain – no interest. A more permanent set-up could be achieved by fabricating brackets and bolting it all together, while also cutting a semi-circle out of the table to accommodate the patient better, and bolting on a pair of handles, the better to hang on to.

So the procedure went on – it was remarkably long-winded – and just when I thought it was over – hell, they said it was over – there was a vicious but brief  bolt of pain that almost shot me a couple of feet into the air!

“Don’t move,” yelled the doc. Well here’s a thought, said I in the highest of dudgeon, if you’re going to hurt the patient say so, then it won’t come as a surprise and they won’t leap in the sodding air in shock!

And on that note we wound it up. I saw them carry out the same procedure two days later, making all the same mistakes they made with me so, clearly, no matter how potentially harmful a procedure is (and there are some very serious things that can go wrong), it will be perpetuated once established. Doesn’t that give you a warm glow?

Oh, and they showed me my “nice, clear” aspirated sample – I would have hated to see what murky and disgusting looked like! Definitely better out than in.

And for the record, you might be told, as I was, that it’s a small needle. Your small or my small? I asked the consultant, to much sniggering from his team, who knew full well the lies patients get told. In the event the junior doc that did the deed, told me it was at least one size bigger than the current largest cannula in use at APH). When I got to see it at the end, that was probably an under-estimation. It was not only long, it was wide too. Just glad she showed me after the event – even giving a blood sample strains my self-control! I HATE needles!

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2 thoughts on “The rather limited joys of Pleural Aspiration…

  1. To help alleviate my Endometriosis symptoms a couple of decades ago, I was given hormone injections in my tummy. The nurse always apologised before doing the deed. Why? Because the needle was at least as thick as the lead in a pencil (yes, I know it’s actually graphite, not lead) . Even a few days after getting the injection, you could still see the hole where the needle went in my tummy. Strangely enough, it wasn’t painful actually getting the injection, unlike the bruise which appeared and was about the size of a saucer! I had to go through this every two months for a year.

    • If you were in APH you could have a similar injection every day, without even the excuse of a good reason. Huge bruises too!

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